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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chess Improvement Ideas Part 9

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Practical Chances in Chess.

Beniamin Blumenfeld

This article was first published in 1934

Purely specialized factors ( positional understanding, the ability to calculate far ahead, etc.) are not in themselves sufficient for success in chess; you also have to apply those faculties which make for success in other forms of sporting contest and in real life : Quick wittedness , the habit of speedily finding your bearings in a new context; the ability to take weighty decisions that have immediate effects, in circumstances that defy analysis ; total dedication to a given aim, whether victory or salvation from defeat; in a bad position, self control and endurance; in a good one, refusal to let your achievements go to your head.


In the chess press, games are mainly discussed with a view to determining the theoretical correctness of the play. Yet this kind of elucidation does not always faithfully reflect the actual course of the struggle. An experienced chess player will sometimes opt for a particular continuation without being at all convinced that it is the best of all those available; he merely judges that it gives the most chances in practice.


From the diagram, play proceeded  44 ... b4  45  Ba4 ( not 45 c x b4  Nxd4  46  bxa5+  Nb5 When black emerges with two strong passed pawns).At this point, the obvious-looking continuation was 45 ... Nxe4  46 Bxd7  ( no better is  46 dxe5  Bxa4  47  c x b4  Bb3  48  bxa5  Rxa5  Which leaves Black with an extra pawn and winning chances in spite of the opposite coloured bishops)

[ After 45 ... Nxe5  46 Bxd7  Nxd7  47  cxb4  a4  Black wins without trouble. The more tenacious line is 46 Bxe5  Bxa4  47 cxb4  Bb3  48 bxa5  Rxa5  40 Bf4  Preparing for Kh4 - g5 or Be3 followed by Kf4 - Dvoretsky] (Read Grandmaster Repertoire 3: The English Opening, Vol. 1)

Instead of this, Nimzowitsch answered 45 Ba4  with 45 ... b3  and there followed 46 Bxc6+ Kxc6, The position now looks dead drawn the black pased pawns on the a and b files are easily stopped, and a kingside breakthrough is impossible.

The game continued.

47  g5   Ra7  48  Rb2

White blockades the black pawn. There was danger in sticking to purely waiting tactics, for instance 48 Kf3  Rb7  49 Kg3  a4  50 Ba3  b2!  51  Rxb2  Rb3  52 Rxb3  cxb3  53  Kf3  Kb5  54  Ke3  b2  55  Bxb2  Kc4  56  Kd2  Kb3  and Black wins the bishop (Read Grandmaster Repertoire 4: The English Opening Volume Two)

48 ...Rb7  49 Kf4  Rc8

Black's aim seems to be to try to penetrate on the h-file with his rook, so White's next move is natural. Yet Black provoked this reply so as to draw the white king away from the queenside and carry out a prepared combination.

50 Kg3



50 ... Rb4!

Black aims to obtain passed pawns which will advance with tempo, owing to the awkward placing of the white rook on b2. We now see why he didn't do the obvious thing and push his a-pawn at any time in the last few moves.
51 cxb4  a4  52  b5+

White gives up a pawn to open a path for his bishop, yet the
rook and bishop prove helpless.
52 ...Kxb5  53 Ba3  c3  54  Rb1  Kc4  55 f4  Kxd4  56  Kf2  Kc4  57  Ke1  d4  58  Ke2  Kd5  59  Kf3  Bb7  60  Re1  Kc4+  61 Kf2  b2  62  f5  exf5  63  e6  Bc6  0-1

From the combination that Black carried out, we can see what dangers were lurking for White in a position that looked harmless. Nimzowitch was therefore right to think that the continuation he chose gave the best practical chances.( Read : Secrets of Chess Defence - Marin

Kmoch  -  Yates San Remo 1930 (White)
White has obtained a decisive advantage by fine play. he should now continue simply with 32 R6e5  dxe5  33  Re5 [ Ne7 !? is simpler - Dvoretsky ] and if 33 ...Rg5  then  34  Ne7!. In this variation both players have approximately equal forces. Although doubled and isolated, the white queenside pawns are fulfilling their function perfectly well - holding up Black's pawns on the same wing. On the kingside, White can create two united pased pawns. The game would win itself Instead  of this simple variation that leaves Black with no chances, White devised a combination. The game continued : 32 Ne7  Bxe6  33 Nxg8  Bxc4 ! (White was evidently counting on being able to meet 33... Bxg8 by f4)

Thanks to his combination White has come out the exchange up, yet Black has acquired definite counter-chances in the shape of mobile queenside pawns supported by the two bishops. Black even went on to win.
The conclusion from this is that given a sufficient advantage we should select those continuations which enable us to achieve the win without allowing the opponent any counterplay.

We may also draw the further conclusion which is less of a platitude. Suppose there is the choice between two continuations : the first gives a decisive positional advantage with a balanced distribution of material;  the second gives roughly the same amount of advantage, but with a material imbalance 9 as in our example with rook and knight against two bishops) In this situation it pays to select the first continuation. With balanced material the devices of attack material the devices of attack and defence are more familiar; there is less scope for the unexpected. ( Read : Grandmaster Secrets - The Caro-Kan)

Yates - Ahues ( Hamburg 1930)  White

White could have decided the game immediately with a fairly simple combination 41 Ng6+  hxg642  Qh4+, etc. Instead, probably without giving it a thought, he played 41 Nh5, which at first sight looks very strong too.

There followed 41 ... Qe5 Kh1  Bxc3!  43  Rxe5  Bxe5.

White now has queen against rook and minor piece, but his kingside attack has evaporated and Black can work up active play. White eventually suffered defeat.

In connection with this example, we can make the following general observation. When an attack culminates in material gain, it is too early to be celebrating victory. In such cases you often find that the whole character of the batle is altered; pieces that were well positioned for conducting the attack turn out to be on the wrong squares once the specific goal is attained; the play shifts to another sector of the board where the opponent's forces are more numerous or better placed. You should therefore exercise particular caution at critical moments when the win of material is possible, and carefully consider whether gaining a material is possible, and carefully consider whether gaining a material plus is worth a deterioration in your position. ( Read : Secrets Of The Sicilian Dragon (Chess Books)

In the foregoing example White overlooked a line that was immediately decisive. Quite often, however, a player will deliberately reject a simple winning line because he wants to win 'brilliantly'.

The following game was a particularly sorry case.

Sergeev  - Grigoriev  (Masters Tournament - Moscow 1932) Black to Play



In this position Black played an interesting combination : ( Read : Winning Chess Traps: Opening Tactics for the Advanced Beginner and …)

31...Ng5  32  Nxb7  f3  33  Nxf3  Nxf3  34  Bxf3  Bc6!  35  Bxc6  Rd3  36  Qb2

All Black had to do now was gain a clearly won position with natural 36...Nxc6 which is what Grigoriev would surely have played in a blitz game. To the general amazement of the spectators, however, he sank into thought, and after some reflection played the unexpected

36 ... Qxg4+. 37  Bg2  Rff3  38 Nc5  Nf5  39  Re4  Qg5  40  Nxd3 and white won.

In his quest for beauty Black forfeited his well-earned win. This example should be a lesson to many.

The Best continuation is the one which leads most surely to the goal - of victory. The inward beauty of chess lies in purposefulness and in choosing the most economical means to achieve the aim.Striving for dramatic effects which stems from a false understanding of chess beauty - often has lamentable consequences. 


If simple, clear solutions are what you should seek in a won position, the converse applies : in a lost position you should try to stir up complexities. In a situation where natural continuations condemn you to defeat, you shouldn't shrink from material sacrifices; the main thing is to obtain active counter-chances. 

In Particular it is worth noting a characteristic feature of Alekhine's play : in inferior positions he doesn't allow his opponent's advantage to grow , but seeks to disrupt the natural course of events; he steers the game into a new channel and conjures up sharp play, if necessary by sacrificing. this hallmark of Alekhine's style remains particularly clear in my memory from the large number of games which I played against him when he had yet to scale the sumits of chess fame. ( Read : Chess Tactics for Intermediate Players )

Contd .........


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Chess Improvement Ideas Part 8
Chess Improvement Ideas Part 7

Chess Improvement Ideas Part 6

Chess Improvement Ideas Part 5